Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trip to USA - The Empire State Building

We woke up early on Tuesday morning, 3 May 2011, and commenced our exploration of Manhattan. The first thing we did was to buy a Citypass for the subway. We didn't want to take the cabs and the subway was an easy (and cheap) way to get around the city. I should say that the New York City subway is an institution in its own right - it is the fourth busiest rapid transit rail system in the world in terms of annual ridership. We found it pleasant and clean enough. We also felt quite safe - there was always a policeman in sight.

We've never taken Ryan on the MRT (mass rapid transit) back home in Singapore although he has been on the tram in Sydney which he enjoyed thoroughly. In Manhattan, our rides were underground so there wasn't much to see out the window but, on one of our rides, we got in the front car, stood at the front window and watched as the train sped through pitch darkness. All that was visible was the small portion in front of the train that was illuminated by the headlights. It was exhilarating! I think it has got to be a rite of passage for a child in New York City!

The first place we wanted to visit was the Empire State Building - the iconic 102-story building where King Kong fought with biplanes in 1933, where Sam and Annie (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan) met on Valentine's Day and where Percy Jackson took a special elevator to the "600th floor" to Olympus.

We wanted to get there bright and early so that we wouldn't get stuck in the legendary queues to go up to the observation deck. As it turned out, we were early enough to have breakfast at McDonald's opposite the building before breezing up to the observation deck. It took less than a minute by elevator to get to the 80th floor where we took another elevator to the 86th floor observation deck.

When we got up to the observation deck, Ryan ran up to the view and shouted, "Wow!" The parapet has differing heights as it wraps around the building so there were portions where he could stand and admire the view without us having to carry him. He had a great time up there playing and running around.

The view is 360-degrees, you can walk around and see all of New York. You can also rent those audio guides and listen to tales and trivia about New York and its buildings. There are those huge coin-operated telescopes if you want a closer view.

I was tickled to find out that the building's distinctive Art Deco spire was originally designed to be a mooring mast and depot for dirigibles - that would have been a sight! The idea proved to be impractical and dangerous after a few attempts with airships so was abandoned. Those of you who watch the science fiction drama series Fringe (one of Richard's favourites) may be interested to know that the observation deck of the Empire State Building serves its primary purpose as a docking station for zeppelins in the parallel universe shown in the second season episode "Peter". The wind and the drafts up on the observation deck were certainly strong. It was also chilly and seeing that it was the beginning of summer, I can't imagine what the winter cold up there must be like!

For an extra fee, you can go up to a second observation deck on the 102nd floor. The deck on the 86th floor is open to the sky while the deck on the 102nd is completely enclosed and much smaller. If you're short on time, you can give the 102nd floor a miss - it's the same view after all. Here we are on the 102nd floor deck.

Some facts for you: The Empire State Building was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986 and has been named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. In 2007, it was ranked number one out of 150 structures on the List of America's Favourite Architecture according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). It is, at present, the tallest building in New York City and the third tallest skyscraper in the USA.

Photo taken by Richard on his iPhone


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